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UN: Mali clashes displace nearly 130,000

Clashes between Tuareg rebels and government forces in Mali have displaced nearly 130,000 people since mid-January, the UN said Friday, warning that it needs $35.6 million to help those displaced by the escalating conflict.

Tuareg mali refugee camp 2012 02 24Enlarge
A woman prepares a meal at a Malian refugee camp in Chinegodar, western Niger, close to the Malian border. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

Clashes between rebels and government forces in Mali have displaced nearly 130,000 people since mid-January, the UN has warned.

In a statement on Friday, the UN refugee agency said it needed $35.6 million to assist those displaced by the escalating conflict, the Agence France Presse reported.

The UN office for humanitarian affairs (OCHA) said people were continuing to flee the fighting, with an estimated 60,000 displaced internally and a further 69,000 seeking refuge in Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Algeria.

More than 7,500 Niger citizens who were living in Mali have left the country and returned home.

The region is facing severe food shortages this year after low rains and a failed harvest in 2011.

More from GlobalPost: Tuaregs - 5 Things You Need to Know

Ethnic Tuareg fighters, uniting under the banner of the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) and demanding independence for Mali’s northern region, began launching attacks on towns and army bases last month, breaking two years of relative peace between the Tuareg and the government.

Many of the rebels are seasoned fighters who have returned from Libya after fighting alongside Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s forces. Dozens are feared to have died in the conflict, but independent information is scarce.

On Thursday Médecins Sans Frontières and Amnesty International urged the government not to attack civilians after a small girl was killed and several other woman and children were injured in an air force bombing raid on a refugee camp in the north of the country, the BBC reported.

Mali’s government says it has not targeted civilian populations, and accuses the rebels of killing captured soldiers and working with Al Qaeda. 

More from GlobalPost: Ex-Gaddafi Tuareg fighters start a new battle

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/120224/un-mali-clashes-displace-nearly-130000